I, like many Americans, have been disgusted with what I have witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri. Stores looted, property stolen, and people shot, while every night ends in a billowing cloud of tear gas. As this chaos unfolds, the grinning man skipping down the street, doing fist pumps in the air is the peace-loving Reverend Al Sharpton, whose ability to pop up like a jack-in-the-box in every racially polarizing situation is truly amazing.
Protesters who happen to get in front of a camera, tell us “they’re look’in for some justice” and that “The police is violatin’ their rights.” With the lack of grammar, it can only be hoped that if some of these protesters loot more businesses, one of them happens to be a bookstore.
However, as some protesters continue to search for “justice” through the broken windows of their local businesses, I’d like to offer a recommendation. I offer this recommendation believing that most of the protesters on the ground desire a peaceful protest for what they perceive as a grave injustice.
The recommendation is to begin to take control of the situation rather than allowing it to control you. If the community will not adopt a five day moratorium on night protests, which has been recommended by community leaders, then protest in a manner which prevents instigators from taking advantage of the situation. Instead of walking down the streets aimlessly screaming “don’t shoot,” as homemade bombs are thrown at police from within your midst, stand arm and arm down the sidewalks. Form long lines with your hands raised. Being able to have hundreds of people take part, for hours at a time, would send a powerful message about the injustice you believe happened in this case. Stand in front of businesses, block passage down sidewalks, all the while simply standing in place. Those who are there to instigate violence will no longer be able to hide among you, nor find an outlet for their tendencies.
Police would have two choices. (1) Attempt to enforce some continuous walking rule, which would be politically and legally untenable, or (2) Do nothing. Regardless, Americans would once again focus on the important issues in this case: how militarized should our local police be, the existence of hopelessness in our major cities, and ultimately what happened on that tragic night.
Remember, the most powerful acts of protests from the civil rights movement, the ones which still to this day touch us as symbols of the strength of the human spirit, are those where people sat unresponsive on buses or at lunch counters. They were protests where people acted in a non-violent passive manner, while still defiant of injustice.
Continuing these protests, even if the majority of people desire them to be peaceful, isn’t an answer. Each night it has led to destruction, violence, and with innocent people being harmed. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”